Fire stations of the world: Boston’s first new firehouse in nearly four decades opens its doors in Roxbury, US
On the corner of Roxbury’s bustling Columbus Avenue, a new firehouse opened its doors to raucous applause Thursday, 14 October 2021, marking a significant milestone for Boston’s Fire Department, it’s the first station rebuilt by the city in nearly four decades. The two-storey firehouse, with advanced ventilation systems and scaled-up amenities, is now the home of fire fighters with Boston Fire Rescue Company 2 and the District 9 fire chief, who respond to fires in Roxbury, Fenway and Jamaica Plain. The station’s construction represents a $23,5 million investment from the city and replaces the single-storey stone firehouse built in 1952 at the same location at 1870 Columbus Avenue.
This new 23 000-square-foot station was planned in close consultation with the department’s workers.
Some of the station’s features were designed to reduce fire fighters’ risk of cancer, according to the architects who worked on it. Fire fighters often breathe in carcinogens in the course of battling blazes putting them at a higher risk of developing cancer, according to research published by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in 2017.
Safety features include a high-grade air ventilation system divided by two floors, so the soot and various compounds fire fighters carry into the station on their gear when they return from fires will be filtered outside, and will not enter the station’s second-floor living quarters. Steam showers will clean harmful substances off of fire fighters’ skin and a holding room for used gear is lined with vents to help carry those substances out of the firehouse.
“Think about what they’re doing, they’re spraying down plastics and whatever materials are out there and then bringing this stuff back to the firehouse,” said Alan M Brown the project leader from the station’s design firm Dore and Whittier Architects. “They have to get clean right away, so they can get back to their living quarters.”
The station’s second floor has a sizable kitchen, a television room with recliners, a fitness centre and areas designed for running drills, in addition to dorms.
The completed Engine 42, Rescue 2, District 9 firehouse includes:
Additionally, the City of Boston is commissioning an artist to create a long-term public artwork to complement the construction of the Engine 42 fire station. This project has a budget of $300 000, and is funded by the City’s Percent for Art programme, which commissions one percent of the City’s capital borrowing for the creation of public art. $15,0 million has been allocated to this programme over the next five years. The artwork at Engine 42 will be a site-specific, impactful, focal design feature that aims to enrich the connection between the Boston Fire Department and the surrounding Egleston and Roxbury communities.
The new firehouse was opened at a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Acting Mayor Kim Janey, other elected officials, Rescue 2 crew members and the fire department’s top leadership.
“I haven’t been inside the building until this morning and, wow, I can’t believe how wonderful the project turned out,” said Joseph Finn, the department’s former commissioner. “It really exceeded all my expectations of how this firehouse was going to finally come to fruition.”
“For 71 years [the old firehouse] has served the community with distinction,” said Fire Commissioner John Dempsey. “There have been many fire fighters who have passed through, certainly more than I can name. They leave a legacy of heroism that is hard to match.”
Janey said the station will serve the neighbourhood well. “I am honoured to be part of bringing the first new firehouse in three decades to this community,” Janey said. “This building represents an important investment in essential neighbourhood services.”
Crews broke ground on the project in September 2019 and publicly celebrated in September 2020 when a giant metal beam that is today the building’s roofline was successfully installed.
During the two-year construction process, Rescue 2 crews were temporarily stationed in a nearby lot at 121 Amory Street.
The last firehouse constructed by the city was the Engine 28, Ladder 10 station in Jamaica Plain, which opened in 1984.
“Being here when they capped it off with the top beam... was pretty cool to see,” said John Soares, president of the Boston fire fighters’ union Local 718. “To [see it] now, what it is is amazing. ... This is something precious.”
Fire officials hope more station renovations will follow and be approved by the city. Some of the current stations, fire fighters say, are worn down with dangerous living conditions.
“Hopefully it continues because some of these houses really need to be updated,” said Rescue 2 fire fighter Justin Plaza.
A renovation of the Engine 17 firehouse in Dorchester has been approved and officials hope to break ground there in December, according to fire fighter Brian Alkins, a spokesman for the department. And planning is underway to potentially replace the stations for Engine 3 in the South End and Engine 37 on Huntington Avenue, according to Janey’s office.
Sources: Boston Globe, Dore and Whittier,